Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ari Aster|
|Written by||Ari Aster|
|Music by||The Haxan Cloak|
|Edited by||Lucian Johnston|
|Budget||< $10 million|
|Box office||$22.5 million|
Midsommar is a 2019 folk horror film written and directed by Ari Aster and starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, and Will Poulter. It follows a group of friends who travel to Sweden for a festival that occurs once every ninety years, only to find themselves in the clutches of a pagan cult.
A co-production between the United States and Sweden, the film was initially pitched as a straightforward slasher film set amongst Swedish cultists. Aster devised a screenplay using elements of this concept but made a deteriorating relationship the central conflict after he had experienced a difficult breakup. The film was shot on location in Budapest, Hungary in the summer and fall of 2018.
Midsommar was theatrically released in the United States on July 3, 2019. It received positive reviews from critics, with specific praise for Aster's direction and Pugh's performance.
Anxiety-ridden college student Dani Ardor suffers from severe emotional trauma after her sister commits a murder-suicide with their parents one winter. This further strains Dani's relationship with her emotionally-distant boyfriend, Christian Hughes, an anthropology graduate student who has been privately seeking a way out of the relationship for a while, but stays with Dani out of a sense of obligation.
The following summer, Dani attends a party with Christian. She learns that he and his friends Mark and Josh have been invited by their Swedish friend Pelle to attend a midsummer celebration that only occurs once every 90 years at Pelle's ancestral commune, the Hårga, in Sweden's Hälsingland. She criticizes Christian for not telling her he was planning to go; to make up for it, Christian awkwardly invites her to join them without consulting his friends.
When they arrive at Hårga, they meet Simon and Connie, an English couple invited to the ceremony by Pelle's brother Ingmar, He offers the group psilocybin, which they all take. Under the influence of the drug, Dani has hallucinations of her dead sister.
Tensions rise after Pelle and Ingmar bring them to witness an ättestupa ritual in which the two commune elders commit suicide by leaping from a clifftop. When the male elder survives the fall, the cult mimic his wails of agony until several members crush his skull with a mallet. This divides the visitors: the Americans decide to stay, both at the behest of Pelle and because the Hårga are the subject of Josh's thesis. However, Simon and Connie are deeply disturbed by the ritual and get their belongings together to leave. Both disappear one after another shortly afterward; the remaining group is assured that they were taken to the train station.
Christian decides to copy Josh's thesis on the Hårga, causing a rift between the two. Josh attempts to solicit more information from an elder on the commune's ancient runic practices, which are based on paintings made by a deformed member selectively born incestuously, whom they consider an oracle. After Mark unwittingly urinates on an ancestral tree and incites the fury of the cult, he is lured away by a female member. That night, Josh sneaks into a temple to photograph their sacred runic text. When he is distracted by a partially nude man wearing Mark's skinned face, he is hit over the head with a hammer and dragged out of the building.
The next day, Dani is coerced into taking more psychedelics and participates in a maypole dancing competition; she wins and is crowned the "May Queen". At the same time, Christian is drugged and groomed to participate in a ritual in which he impregnates commune member Maja while female cult members watch and mimic her moans of pleasure. After discovering this, Dani has a panic attack, releasing her bottled agony, and several of the Hårga women wail with her. Shortly after the ritual, a disoriented Christian discovers Josh's leg and then finds Simon, who has been ritually dismembered as a blood eagle. He is then paralyzed by an elder using an unknown drug.
The cult explains that, at the conclusion of the ritual, nine human sacrifices must be offered. The first four victims are outsiders—Josh, Mark, Connie, and Simon—lured to the village by Pelle and Ingmar. The next four victims are cult members—the two suicide elders, a still-living Ingmar and his friend, making eight. As the May Queen, Dani has to choose the ninth and final victim—either an outsider or a lottery-selected cult member. Bitter and heartbroken, Dani chooses to sacrifice Christian. He is stuffed into a disemboweled bear and placed in a yellow temple alongside the ritually prepared corpses of the other sacrifices. As the temple burns and the cult celebrates the completion of their ritual, Dani at first sobs in horror but gradually begins to smile.
- Florence Pugh as Dani Ardor, a college student grappling with a family tragedy
- Jack Reynor as Christian Hughes, Dani's distant boyfriend studying anthropology
- William Jackson Harper as Josh, one of Christian's friends and classmates
- Vilhelm Blomgren as Pelle, Christian's friend and classmate who invites them to his home in Sweden
- Will Poulter as Mark, Christian's friend and classmate
- Ellora Torchia as Connie, a British student traveling to the commune
- Archie Madekwe as Simon, Connie's fiance
- Anna Åström as Karin
- Mats Blomgren as Odd
- Tomas Engström as Jarl
- Gunnel Fred as Siv
- Isabelle Grill as Maja, a young woman from the commune who takes an interest in Christian
- Hampus Hallberg as Ingemar, Pelle's brother
- Rebecka Johnston as Ulrika
- Anki Larsson as Irma
- Liv Mjönes as Ulla
- Henrik Norlén as Ulf
- Louise Peterhoff as Hanna
- Julia Ragnarsson as Inga
- Agnes Westerlund Rase as Dagny
- Björn Andrésen as Dan
In May 2018, it was announced Ari Aster would write and direct the film, with Lars Knudsen serving as producer. B-Reel Films, a Swedish company, was announced as the producer of the film, with A24 distributing. According to Aster, he had been approached by A24 executives to helm a slasher film set in Sweden, an idea which he initially rejected as he felt he "had no way into the story." Aster ultimately devised a story in which the two central characters are experiencing relationship tensions verging on a breakup, and wrote the surrounding screenplay around this theme. He described the result as "a breakup movie dressed in the clothes of a folk horror film".
In July 2018, Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, Vilhem Blomgren, William Jackson Harper, Ellora Torchia, and Archie Madekwe joined the cast. Principal photography began on July 30, 2018, in Budapest, Hungary, and wrapped in October 2018.
Midsommar had a pre-screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in New York City, on June 18, 2019. The film was released in the United States on July 3, 2019, and in the United Kingdom on July 5, 2019.
In the United States and Canada, the film was projected to gross $8–10 million from 2,707 theaters over its first five days. It made $3 million on its first day, including $1.1 million from Tuesday night previews, which Deadline Hollywood called a "smashing start". It went on to debut to $10.9 million, finishing sixth at the box office. In its second weekend the film dropped 44% to $3.7 million, finishing in eighth.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 82% based on 276 reviews, with an average rating of 7.47/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Ambitious, impressively crafted, and above all unsettling, Midsommar further proves writer-director Ari Aster is a horror auteur to be reckoned with." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 3 out of 5 stars and a 50% "definite recommend".
John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter described the film as "The horror equivalent of a destination wedding" and "more unsettling than frightening, [but] still a trip worth taking." Writing for Variety, Andrew Barker noted that it is "neither the masterpiece nor the disaster that the film's most vocal viewers are bound to claim. Rather, it's an admirably strange, thematically muddled curiosity from a talented filmmaker who allows his ambitions to outpace his execution". David Edelstein of Vulture praised Pugh's performance as "amazingly vivid" and noted that Aster "paces Midsommar more like an opera (Wagner, not Puccini) than a scare picture," but concluded that the film "doesn't jell because its impulses are so bifurcated. It's a parable of a woman's religious awakening—that's also a woman's fantasy of revenge against a man who didn't meet her emotional needs—that's also a male director's masochistic fantasy of emasculation at the hands of a matriarchal cult."
Eric Kohn of IndieWire summarized the film as a "perverse breakup movie," adding that "Aster doesn't always sink the biggest surprises, but he excels at twisting the knife. After a deflowering that makes Ken Russell’s The Devils look tame, Aster finds his way to a startling reality check." Time Out's Joshua Rothkopf awarded the film a 5/5 star-rating, writing: "A savage yet evolved slice of Swedish folk-horror, Ari Aster's hallucinatory follow-up to Hereditary proves him a horror director with no peer."
For The A.V. Club, A. A. Dowd emphasized that the film's comedy, as well as its horror elements, "rivals Hereditary in the cruel shock department", and gave the film a "B+ effort". Writing for Inverse, Eric Francisco commented that the film feels "like a victory lap after Hereditary," and that Aster "takes his sweet time to lull viewers into his clutches... But like how the characters experience time, its passage is a vague notion." Fransisco described the film as "a sharp portrayal of gaslighting". Richard Brody of The New Yorker said that the film "is built on such a void of insight and experience, such a void of character and relationships, that even the first level of the house of narrative cards can't stand" and "In the end, the subject of Midsommar is as simple as it is regressive: lucky Americans, stay home".
- 2019 in film
- List of American films
- List of Swedish films of the 2010s
- List of horror films of 2019
- The Wicker Man, 1973 British horror film with similar plot elements
- Midsommer, 2003 Danish horror film set in Sweden over the summer solstice, remade in U.S. as Solstice in 2008
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